The premise that aging is an important health care cost driver is tackled in the latest issue of the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation (CHSRF) Mythbusters series, entitled “Myth: The aging population is to blame for uncontrollable health care costs.”
Seniors are known to cost the system more per capita than younger people and are more likely to have multiple chronic conditions, leading to more doctor visits and longer hospital stays, and greater need for pharmaceuticals. This has led to the conclusion that health care expenditures will rise to unsustainable levels as the proportion of seniors in the population continues to grow, creating concerns about service cuts and tax increases.
But CHSRF argues that costs do not increase uncontrollably just because there are more seniors—the main drivers of health care costs in the years to come will be inflation and technological innovation, not demographics.
Population aging will have an impact on average use of all health care services, but, CHSRF argues, aging plays out at a gradual pace, providing opportunities to undertake the necessary system planning and adjustment. Changes suggested by CHSRF include providing seniors in expensive acute care settings with access to the less expensive residential care, assisted living, or home care services in the community.
For more information see www.chsrf.ca/Programs/PlanningForTheAgingPopulation.aspx.
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Halpern SD, Ubel PA, Caplan AL, Marion DW, Palmer AM, Schiding JK, et al. Solid-organ transplantation in HIV-infected patients. N Engl J Med. 2002;347:284-7.
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